Run, Forrest, run!

baby

A teenage boy wearing thick glasses, no jacket over a thin white blouse and flip flops over his grey socks is feeding bread from a plastic bag to the seagulls on the river bank. He tears big pieces of the soft loaf and throws them in the air, pausing from time to time to take hungry bites himself.  When both the boy and the birds finish their lunch together, he folds the plastic bag and hides it in his fist before shoving it in his trousers pocket and crossing the street, disappearing among the old houses on the other side of the road. My baby is sound asleep against my chest, tucked in the elastic wrap and I can feel his warm breath against my skin. I stop in my walk to watch the scene. I know it’s one of those moments that are going to turn into lasting memories and stick with me for a long while.

Just like my midwife’s coffee scented breath in the wee hours of the morning as she’s blowing softly on my face during labor, while I’m feeling my baby’s head with my fingertips before he finally comes out later.

Or his heart pounding like a racing horse’s under that pink flowered tree in the park, as he pulled me closer and closer, giving me long kisses before allowing a short distance between our mouths and resting his eyes on my lips while uttering the question he’d been rehearsing so many times. It was a cool evening after a rainy day this spring and I felt like peeing.

Or seeing that second line on the pink test at 4 am on March 8, sitting on the toilet in his bathroom and trying to live through the next day as if everything hadn’t completely changed forever.

Or his warmth when I cuddled in his arms on our first night together and my chest exploding from the incredible heat as he so full of himself assured me: “Relax, I am here for you.” Back in Harmony street, early December…

Or sitting in my seat on the bus taking me from Konya to Cappadochia, my dark red fingernails matching the fresh bruises on my face, and the whiteness of the skin on my neck reflected in the clean window. November 1, last year.

Or landing in Cambodia in such perfect darkness that night in February last year, my 85 year old Swiss friend sitting beside me, a long saliva string with sparkling beads hanging from the corner of his mouth all the way down to his shirt, while I’m struggling with such a strong combination of anxiousness, curiosity and fear.

Or that rainy evening in March last year, landing in Istanbul to meet a beloved friend on her birthday after a delayed flight. Looking for flowers and cake in the airport and ending up with a huge lolly pop in my hand as I’m walking up to her in that impressive crowd in the Ataturk airport to surprise her from behind. Her smile and her tight hug bringing back old feelings of guilt.

Or coming out of the shower, wrapped up in that white towel, water still dripping from my hair down my bare shoulders, and seeing that silver mist fill up that shabby candle lit hotel room in Istanbul where I stayed for a whole week a month later. “My happy time”, as my Syrian friend called it. “You’re happy, Dana”, he explained, “that’s why you see this fog in the room. It’s called happiness.”

Or crossing that bridge lined with flower pots somewhere in Cluj in the summer of 2015, construction noise filling up the area and dust sticking to the skin on my feet, my sandals getting sweaty on the hot asphalt.

Or a particular evening in August two years ago while carrying stuff on my bike from my former home when I moved in Harmony street and I heard this little girl say: “Look, mom, the lady is going on holiday!” and I felt she was making such an accurate description of my situation in spite of the distance between us.

Or that morning back in my former home, probably in the spring of 2015, folding laundry and sprinkling it with warm, fresh tears on the stretched out couch in the living room where I’d just spent my first night alone, out of the bedroom. “This is so damn hard”, I told him, “Help me”. “Do you want me to help you stay or help you leave?” he asked picking up a T-shirt, tears rolling from his eyes down his cheeks and crossing paths on his chin, making it shiver uncontrollably.

Or that narrow road in Crete about ten years ago, after dinner in that beach tavern where those Greeks suddenly spoke no English at all when they brought us our overcharged bill. The day was losing strength as night was closing in, and so was I losing respect for the man driving next to me.

Or that creepy studio I lived in for a few months when I finished university, with its dirty armchair by the balcony door, where he sat, legs spread, arms resting in his lap, lowered chin and faint voice. That “I don’t love you anymore” that threw me out of my own life like a dog kicked out of a yard when its people are tired of it.

Or that “I love you!” spoken to me as if it were a huge and painful problem, sitting at the desk in my room back in my home town, while I was still in high school. I didn’t know how to answer that, so I closed my eyes and hugged him and just copied a detached attitude I’d seen was successful and repeated what someone else had said to me not long before: “What am I going to do with you?”

And so many others, like a big box with a wide selection of pralines – different sizes, shapes and flavors. I wonder if Forrest Gump had a similar perception when he remembered “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

PS Yeah, that’s me in the photo.

On fear, bravery and waterfalls

I am the bravest person I know personally. And still, a part of me is so afraid…

That’s what I’m thinking the other night, unable to sleep.

Afraid of all the changes I am going through, in spite of wanting them so much. Afraid of what the future might bring, afraid of losing control, afraid of making mistakes, afraid of loss, afraid of heartache, afraid of my own body having a life of its own, beyond my control.

And right then and there, fighting through the burning sensation in the overstretched skin on my abdomen, rolling over on to my other side, it dawns on me. Being brave does not exclude being afraid. Of course I am afraid. Experiencing fear is part of human experience and absolutely no one is exempt from it. Being brave means you don’t let fear bring you down. It means you go on no matter what. It means you stand up for yourself. It means you confront your fears, you dive into them, find out their names, and pull through. And that is the only way ahead.

Being brave means having trust. An immutable trust in life to carry you further no matter what. On your own blessed path. Nothing, absolutely nothing can go wrong. There is no such thing as failure. And I have no doubt about it.

So yes, I am afraid. And I am brave enough to admit it. My most precious dream is coming true and I am more afraid than ever. The stakes are high, you see. And then, in the light of this new understanding, I tune in to my baby and feel his strong kicks in my belly. He is real. There can be no doubt about it. He has come to me. Shortly after my travel companion came. It all seemed long overdue for all three of us. So, like waterfalls, we pour into one another’s lives, swiping away everything else. Here we are.

A meeting with an old friend, flooded in light

“You’re basically doing all the right things”, the ophthalmologist tells me after the examination, having almost blinded me with her strong light, taking the deepest look into my eyes anyone has ever taken.

The flood of light when I get out into the sun and the snow is so painful I can barely keep my eyes open and I’m feeling a little bit confused trying to make my way to the park to meet some of the kids in my class. There are no contours and everything seems to float and move all the time, as if I were trying to focus and the camera just won’t keep still.

“Mrs Daniela, Mrs Daniela, I missed you so much”, he says running towards me and jumping into my arms. I forget he’s grown and, hugging him tight, I lift him at my chest to make keeping him close easier on my back. This embarrasses him, so I quickly put him down and tell him how much he’s grown (though I’m not so credible anymore, since I could lift him).

“Me too, my darling, me too. Let me look at you” and I’m searching for his eyes and, through the blinding light still pouring in, I can still see that part of me I’ve always seen in him and that part of him I see in me every morning when I look in the mirror.

He’s so sensitive it almost feels like his skin has been peeled off his chest and his heart has no way of defending herself against the world doing all it does just by being itself. He takes it all in and lets it storm throughout his entire being. His heart is so big everyone and everything fits inside and there is still room for more. I wish mine were brave enough to be like that all the time. Leaving the doors and the windows wide open through the lowest and the highest temperatures.

He lives in India now with his family. A travelers’ family. We’re from the same family, so not even for a moment do I feel we have ever been apart. And I do feel, with all my heart, that there is a strong connection between us and it will stay strong and live through many life changes. I knew it since the first time I saw him – a strong, intelligent and scared eight year old, blinking all the time and hiding his eyes from mine. I knew he’s from my ship. We’re still sailing together.

Thank you, Rareș.

 

the time of the butterflies is gone

I have this little demon in my stomach
eating from within
hungry for fears
for mistakes
for wishes
and dreams
and weaknesses
it swallows my secrets
it has a huge mouth
and all the food I eat it swallows
and asks for more
it’s growing fast
it’s even got me to eat a huge portion of failure fear today
fooled me into believing that even exists
got me to swallow my own words for fear they might be misread
gets me to swallow air
and sweat
and dust as I go running
makes my fingers tremble
my legs so anxious I get sore muscles while sitting
or trying to, at least
I tried to exorcise it and it’s got even stronger and angrier
I’ll try my luck and love it tonight